Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

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I was probably fourteen when I picked up this book, while browsing a small bookstore. I remember loving the smell of the old books and being drawn to the cover style of this book. When I read the title I had the “AHA!” moment. I was just starting my writing journey and I wanted to get better, so I bought this book.

As the title states there are ten rules of writing that Elmore Leonard suggests to writers. Some of these rules I agree with, like: 1. Never Open a Book with Weather, 5. Keep Your Exclamation Points Under Control, 6. Never Use the Words “Suddenly” or “All Hell Broke Loose”, and 10. Try to Leave Out the Parts that Readers Tend to Skip.

However there are rules that I disagree with as well, like: 3. Never Use a Verb Other Than “Said” to Carry Dialogue, 8. Avoid Detailed Descriptions of Characters, and 9. Don’t Go Into Great Detail Describing Places and Things.

Overall, I would suggest this book to beginning writers, even though I don’t agree with all his rules. Even the rules I disagree with, Leonard explains well.  For example: “But even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill” (pg 55). He makes a good point in this line. I personally think that places and things should only have short descriptions, unless they are essential to the story and plot. Then you should give them more detail.

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing is a short and straight-to-the-point read, which is refreshing. Most books about writing are long and very detailed. Also, this book has effective images to go along with the rules. I feel that any writer that reads this book will have rules they agree with and rules they do not.

When it comes to books about writing we need to remember that they are not bibles for writers. They are books written by successful writers to help other writers. The authors of these books state their opinions and rules on writing. What might work for one author, might not work for a different author.

You don’t have to follow all the rules that Elmore Leonard states in his book, however, keep in mind his reasoning behind the rules.

The last thing I am going to suggest about this book, is to read the suggestions after the rules. After Leonard states his tenth rule he gives other rules, some that even contradict his previous rules. These suggestions were the ones that hit me the most.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. (pg 71)

Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. (pg 73)

I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. (pg 75)

I highly recommend this book to all writers and I highly recommend reading it carefully, especially the last ten pages, since they are the real points he was trying to make.

Thank You for reading,

-Lalia LaRose

How to Create Believable Characters for Your Book

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In my post about How to Start Writing I wrote about the Five Elements of Story (Character, Setting, Plot, Conflict, and Theme). As you can probably tell by the title of this blog post, I’ll be helping you develop your own characters. Because every story need characters and every good story needs believable characters. And here are my suggestions on creating believable characters for you book:

1. Keep Characters Real and Relatable:

When you are building a character, especially in the fantasy genre, you want to give them a little extra edge. For example: you give them a super power where they can shoot gamma rays from their eyeballs. Does this mean that the character is now not real? No, it means that now you have to make them seem real. When I saw “keep them real” what I mean is that they have to act like a real person. Every person has strengths and weaknesses, so do your characters. Even if your character has several super powers, they are still a person, and so they have to act like one.

Keeping them real and making them relatable are similar, but not quite the same. You can make a real person-like character with gamma ray shooting eyeballs that can be unrelatable. When your character has a special feature like gamma eyes, you need to work harder at making them relatable. Relatability is related with the emotions and personality of your character. If gamma ray boy accidentally shot his high school sweetheart with his eyes, how would he react. This is where writers write an emotional scene, but sometimes they become under-emotion, or over emotional.

Example 1: Under Emotional

Gord (our character with gamma ray shooting eyes) stood beside his girlfriend’s body. He stared at it with a frown. He knelt down and tried to wake her.

“Emma, are you okay?” he asked.

She gave no response.

“I’m going to call 911,” he said and pulled out his cellphone.

(and continues on like that)

Example 2: Over Emotional

Gord fell to his knees as tears threatened to spill from his eyes. His entire body was shaking as he grabbed Emma’s body. He held her close to his chest and began to cry. He sobbed loudly.

“I’m so sorry Emma,” he sniffled, “Please wake up.”

When there was no response and he let his head drop. His shoulders shook violently, he flung his head back, and let out a ear-splitting cry.

“Nooooooooooo!!!”

Example 3: Emotional

“Emma!” Gord ran to her as she fell to the floor.

He knelt down on the floor beside her and stared at her with wide, wet eyes. He reached towards her with shaky hand and hesitated. He shook his head and placed his hand on her shoulder. He softly shook her as though we was waking her up for breakfast.

“Open your eyes Emma,” he pleaded.

He watched her eyelids, hoping that she would open them. He wanted to see her deep brown eyes stare back at him, but her eyes didn’t open.

“Oh god,” he fumbled with his cellphone and dialled 911.

Hopefully I portrayed the difference between the three scenes. In the first scene Gord seemed like a robot, while in the second scene he was melodramatic. In both scenes you don’t get much of an insight to his real emotions or feelings, you just get his reactions. In the third scene he gave a realistic response to the scenario, plus there is some insight to his real feelings for Emma and their relationship.

2. Make Sure Characters are Well-Developed 

When building a character you want to make them 3-dimensional and interesting. To do this you need to have a great understanding of your character. You need to know them like you know your best friend. You can find character templates that might help, but the trouble with those are that sometimes they go too in-depth, or not in-depth enough.

My suggestion is to get into the head of your character and interview them. You will want to know enough about their past to explain why they who they are. You’ll want to know their fears, goals, secrets, and insecurities. Remember that setting will also affect your character in some way. You should write everything down on a reference page so you can refer back to it while writing. This is basically creating your own character outline.

Please avoid using 1-dimensional archetypes or stereotypes as your main attribute to your characters. It’s fine to include them in your characters overall personality, but if you use them as the main personality, your character will come off as unoriginal.

Example: Gord is like Superman, versus, Gord would risk his life to protect Emma, like how Superman would for Lois Lane.

3. Keep Characters Consistent

If you have a deep understanding of your character, usually this isn’t a problem. However, sometimes we forget about our characters when we try to further plot. For example: Gord gets drunk and cheats on Emma. This adds drama and intensity to the story, but would you really see Gord doing that?

One way to keep consistent with your character is to have the reference page I mentioned before. Also having gone through the step of making your character well-developed, you should have a good sense of what your character would and would not do.

Sometimes we have to put our characters in a place where they don’t have a choice. This is backing them into a corner so you can change the direction of the plot. It’s a useful tactic, but remember not to use it too often. Readers like to see characters struggle, but they also like to see a character make their own choices. These situations reveal a lot about a character to the readers.

Remember, plot can’t go anywhere without characters.

Here are some helpful videos about character building:

How to Write Believable Characters (Jenna Moreci)

How to Write Believable Characters PART 2 (Jenna Moreci)

How to Create a Character Profile (Jenna Moreci)

Thank for reading,

Lalia LaRose

 

 

How to Start Writing

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First things first, you need an idea! An idea can come from nowhere, but it mostly like starts from one of the Five Story Elements. These elements are: characters, setting, conflict, plot, and themes. A lot of the time a writer’s idea starts at one element and then they have to flesh the idea out to incorporate all elements. If your story is missing one of the elements it will not be as dynamic as it could.

These essentials are the backbone to writing a story. Without them your writing will have no direction. So start filling in the blanks. If your idea started with your character, then think about who your character is and connect your character to the other elements of story.

Great! Now you have a story, but next you have to write it. This is where you either get super excited and bring your fingers to pen or keyboard, or you freeze up. How do you start actually writing? As a person who has been writing from my early teens I would tell you to just start. It doesn’t have to be good. You just need to get words down. You can’t get good at writing if you don’t start. Here are some questions that might help you get started:

  • If this was a movie, how would I want it to open? Start with revealing the main character or setting?
  • What is the most important element of the story? And start there.
  • (Remember: you don’t need to start at the beginning. It might be beneficial to start at the end or middle of the plot to get a good sense of where the story is heading.)
  • What is my character’s goal? How is he/she going to accomplish that goal? When does my character’s goal change and what does it change to? How are they going to accomplish that goal?
  • What or who is going to get in the way of my character?

I would strongly suggest that you start an outline of you story. You don’t have to start it before you write, but definitely start your outline near the beginning. You don’t want to start it when you’ve already started the climax. An outline is a helpful tool that might help you get started. I will be making a blog post about outlining in the future, but for now I suggest that you check out these videos: How to Outline Your Novel (Jenna Moreci)How to Outline Your Novel (Kim Chance), and How to Outline your Novel (Updated!) (Kim Chance).

(I personally love Jenna’s video! She’s quite entertaining and her videos are super helpful! This is her YouTube channel: Jenna Moreci (YouTube).

Kim Chance also has a YouTube channel and a blog. Here they are: Kim Chance (YouTube) and Kim Chance (website).

Anyway, back on topic!)

What I am about to tell you is very important, so pay attention. When you start writing DO NOT put yourself down. DON’T think you suck. DO NOT GIVE UP! Yes, at the start your writing may suck, but every writer has gone through it. You do not suck, even if your story does. Just keep working at it. The more you write, the better you’ll get. Don’t be your own worst critic. In the future will need that inner critic to get through editing and redrafting and editing again.

You will need that little asshole in you mind in future, but not right now. Right now you need to write freely without self-doubt. Right now you need to practice and sharpen your writing tools. Right now you need to write. So put a muzzle on that inner critic and get some words written down.

What other helpful tips do you have when it comes to starting a writing project? Comment your suggestions below!

P.S- I will be making future blog posts on outlining, the Five Elements of Story, and how to generate ideas.

Thanks for reading,

Lalia LaRose

The Last Queen of Terrivea

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last queenHello Reader, this will be my first post about my book in-progress, The Last Queen of Terrivea. I am in the early stages of writing my first draft, which is currently at 20,000 words. It’s a fantasy book following my female main character Ophelia Durand. It’s currently written in third person limited point of view. As I progress through the novel I will be posting updates notifying followers what is happening in the story. I will (later on) be making posts about finding Beta-Readers, Critique Partners, and so on.

Novice writers (like myself) can follow me through the stages of crafting my novel, and hopefully learn from my expereinces. Experienced, even published, authors are welcome to comment and leave me helpful pointers to aid me on my journey. Everyone is welcome to comment, however I would prefer if spammers and trolls did not.

P.S- The book cover is self made and only temporary until a professional one is made.

Thank you for reading,

Lalia LaRose

About Progress

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progress-lies-not-in-enhancingAs a writer I feel pressured to make progress in my book everyday, and I’m sure other readers feel the same way. However, sometimes it’s hard to make that progress, especially when you’re spending your time writing a blog. As a writer it is difficult to convince yourself that what you are doing is a job, even though you don’t get paid (yet). You might have thoughts like, “I have so many things I should be doing”, or “I don’t have the time to write today.”

Life has a way of throwing a wrench into everything. For example: You sit at your computer and you write five thousand words. Congratulations! Then life throws that large, heavy, monkey wrench at you and your computer malfunctions before you can save your progress. You have that sinking feeling. You think about throwing your computer across the room, but then you opt to curl up in a ball and cry.

Living life means you have to expect those monkey wrenches and find ways to avoid them, or work with/around them. Sometimes we need these setbacks to make progress. Yes, I said-uh-wrote it. We need these shiny wrenches to hit us in the gut, before we can make true progress. These wrenches make us see things in prospective. Let’s return to our earlier example.

You finish crying, leaving a salty wet stain on the floor. You return to your computer and reboot it. Sure enough, you lost all five thousand words. You contemplate returning to your puddle, but you suck it up and start writing, again. When you finish your writing session you realize that what you just wrote was twenty times better than what you had before. Give yourself a pat on the back, you just overcame adversity.

When you are a writer, writing is like your therapy. Sometimes we forget that, especially if we haven’t written anything in a while. Any amount you write is progress, even if the writing may suck. Progress is not always about improving, sometimes it’s about taking those first steps towards your goal.

Beating adversity (preferably with a monkey wrench) is a form of progress. Writing complete garbage on a page is also progress. If you are doing something that is moving you further down the path towards your goal, that is progress. These are just my thoughts on the matter.

What do you think? Leave your answer in the comments below.

Thank you for reading,

Lalia LaRose

Greetings

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Since this is my first blog post I will explain why I started the blog and what it will be about. 

I’m a young writer and I’m currently working on my first manuscript. It’s important to make a name for myself so when I do finish my manuscript and publish I will already (hopefully) have a fan base. Writing in the modern age requires marketing and the best way to do that is by using technology and social media.

In the next little while I will be making a Facebook page, Tumblr, and Wattpad. When I make them I will post the links on this website under contact. 

In short my blog will be about my writing process and progress, some tips and tricks I’ve learnt and will share with you, and any updates about my book. There will also probably be other random posts that I will adding along the way. I will also be making book suggestions. 
In that note I will end my first post here. Thank you for reading! 

-Lalia LaRose